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Harry Potter and the Controversial Tweets: is it time for Harry Potter to disapparate from schools?

In recent years, I've remained on the fence about whether to continue to support the Harry Potter franchise, but as a gay man and a former teacher, I've been told several times that I shouldn't support Harry Potter as doing so supports transphobia. I've also had several debates with schools on whether they should stock Harry Potter books given the current controversy surrounding her views. You may not even be familiar with what is happening with JK Rowling so in this article, we'll break down what's happening, and why this is not as simple an issue as some would like to have you believe.


 

Let's start with why this discussion exists in the first place. Many of J.K. Rowling's tweets and reshared articles support female equality and tackle issues such as instances of the elimination of the word woman from medical resources (a view that I share as there are ways for be inclusive without eliminating words such as man and woman). She also raises awareness of gender inequality in countries across the world.



However, increasingly, many of Rowling's public statements on transgender issues have sparked controversy and pain, particularly within the LGBTQ+ community. This began in 2018, where Rowling liked a transphobic tweet, which she later apologised for. But recently, she has liked, shared and written multiple tweets which many view as transphobic. A thorough timeline of these tweets and incidents can be found here with the most recent tweet seen in this image, which is outright transphobic and represents the culmination of a journey towards more extreme views.


 

But what does this mean for Harry Potter fans in the LGBTQ+ community, allies, and for schools who want to improve and ensure inclusion and diversity? As a gay man, I stand in solidarity with transgender individuals and reject any form of discrimination or prejudice. Rowling's views have challenged my ability to separate the art from the artist, and for many people, made continuing to support Harry Potter difficult.


Let's start with the foundation: Harry Potter. Rowling's Wizarding World isn't just a story; it's a cultural phenomenon that has captivated millions worldwide, myself included. The books reignited my passion for reading as an adult and in my twenties, there was rarely a time when I wasn't reading or re-reading a copy. I've played the video games, board games, card games and am on the waiting list for a new miniatures game. I love the world that has been built and have not only feelings of nostalgia, but I enjoy the continued expansion of the lore through games such as Hogwarts Legacy. My son also loves Harry Potter. They are amongst his favourite films and he has been given tickets to Harry Potter studios, which he is incredibly excited about. Many schools use Harry Potter to inspire writing, with several I know of using the books as a basis for whole topics.; those schools reporting high engagement and creative topics.


Whilst I cherish the Harry Potter books, movies and early games, I find myself increasingly hesitant to embrace new products or content associated with the franchise. It's not a rejection of the Wizarding World I love but a conscious decision to withhold support from an author whose beliefs clash with my values. The polarised world of social media would have you believe that you should simply stop supporting JK Rowling and the Wizarding World; but it's just not that simple. When you're invested in a world, when it means a lot to you, and you can see a lot of the positive impact that it's still having, it's not as easy to say goodbye as some people would like you to believe. It is absolutely true that because of this controversy I now question purchases far more and have significantly reduced my financial contributions to the Wizarding World; I spent almost a year debating whether or not to purchase the game Hogwarts Legacy before deciding that I was going to buy it. For the most part, I choose to revisit the familiar stories and characters that shaped my imagination, enjoying the nostalgia of Hogwarts and its inhabitants; and it does not mean that Harry Potter has disappeared from our house. I definitely do not restrict myself from enjoying Harry Potter, but I tend to use my existing Blu Rays, books and games, or buy second hand, rather than buying new products.


 

When it comes to the inclusion of Harry Potter books in school curricula, educators are tasked with making thoughtful and balanced decisions that prioritise the well-being and inclusivity of all students. While the Harry Potter series has undeniably sparked imagination and fostered a love for reading in countless young minds, it's essential for schools to consider the broader context, including J.K. Rowling's controversial statements and the impact they may have on marginalised communities. Schools should encourage critical thinking and provide students with diverse literary experiences, recognising that there are numerous authors who have crafted magical worlds ripe for exploration. By exploring alternative options and supporting a variety of voices within the realm of children's literature, schools can promote inclusivity and offer students the opportunity to engage with imaginative storytelling while honouring diverse perspectives and values. And let's face it, most children know and/or have at least read Harry Potter, so isn't it our responsibility to expose children to new and lesser known writers? We also need to consider the negative impact on pupils who are directly affected by her statements; this could make trans+ pupils, in particular, feel alienated and damage the relationship between them and the school.


As parents, our relationship with Harry Potter may also extend beyond our own experiences; it intersects with the life of my son, who shares my fascination with the Wizarding World. His love for the series is a source of joy and connection, inspiring him to explore the wonders of reading and engage in conversations with other children. As a parent, witnessing his enthusiasm for reading fills me with pride, even as I grapple with the complexities of Rowling's views. He has had a difficult relationship with reading and at his age, if he wants read Harry Potter, it's easier said than done to say no, especially when he's not old enough to understand the nuances of the situation.


 

In the midst of these complexities, it's vital to emphasise the importance of respectful discourse and understanding. I have witnessed several LGBTQ+ people being subjected to abuse online for still supporting Harry Potter, sometimes by other LGBTQ+ people, but more often by others whose comments quickly attract homophobic and transphobic commentary. Shouting at or being aggressive towards individuals for either supporting or not supporting J.K. Rowling or Harry Potter only serves to deepen divides and hinders the progress of inclusion and acceptance. True dialogue requires us to listen with empathy and engage in constructive conversations, even when perspectives diverge. We must recognise that other people's views may not always align perfectly with our own, and that's okay, as long as that is shared with respect. It's through respectful exchanges and genuine efforts to bridge differences that we can move towards a more inclusive and compassionate society, where every voice is heard and valued.


I don't have the answer as to whether you should or should support Harry Potter here. Whilst there is a lot of outrage online regarding JK Rowling's views, these have not translated into a decline in the Wizarding World, with Hogwarts Legacy being one of the biggest selling video games of 2023. Those who decry that no-one should ever read Harry Potter again, or purchase any Wizarding World products, ignore the complexities of the situation and how inspiring children's imagination and reading is vitally important, especially in a post pandemic world where reading standards have been one of the biggest casualties of lockdown. But also those who say that there is nothing wrong with JK Rowling's comments are ignoring how they impact on many individuals and communities.


As JK Rowling seemingly becomes more entrenched in these views, individuals, communities and schools will need to carefully consider whether opposing her opinions out-trumps their love of the Wizarding World.

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